Justin Jones Files Lawsuit Alleging Cameron Sexton Violated His Constitutional Rights
Tennessee Rep. Justin Jones filed a federal lawsuit on Oct. 3 against his state’s Speaker of the House to create a measure of accountability for Cameron Sexton’s actions toward him.
According to The Hill, Jones’s complaint alleges that Sexton violated the 14th Amendment as it reads, “The government denied equal protection to Representative Jones in treating him differently than similarly situated white House members for the same conduct.”
Jones names state House Chief Clerk Tammy Letzler, state House Chief Sergeant at Arms Bobby Trotter, and Parliamentarian Daniel Hicks as co-defendants in the lawsuit and it mentions his expulsion, of which he notes a white colleague who engaged in the same kind of protest as Jones, was not kicked out of the legislative body. Jones’s complaint alleges that the colleague, Gloria Johnson, was also allowed to serve on a committee she was elected to before her expulsion, whereas Jones was denied the opportunity to even get a seat in the first place.
Today my attorneys filed a federal lawsuit to hold Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton responsible for his unconstitutional and discriminatory actions.
The people of District 52 deserve to have their voices heard without the threat of undemocratic silencing and retaliation. pic.twitter.com/3iLOOssTQ1
— Rep. Justin Jones (@brotherjones_) October 3, 2023
Though Jones and another Black colleague, Justin Pearson, were able to regain their seats via a special election following their gun rights protest in April 2023 after a Nashville shooting, Johnson was never expelled. In addition to this, Jones says in the lawsuit that the actions of the defendants ended up making sure that he couldn’t get seniority status or even his retirement benefits from the Tennessee Legislature.
According to Nashville News Channel 5, Jones’s suit also claims that “despite having been duly—and overwhelmingly—reelected by the people of the 52nd Legislative District, the Speaker and the House Republican majority have prevented and continue to prevent Representative Jones from speaking on behalf of his constituents by their continuing to deny Representative Jones his seat on the Government Operations committee to which he was duly appointed.”
He also alleges that the changes that were made to the Rules of Order of the Tennessee House of Representatives in August amount to a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech, as well as the Tennessee Constitution.
According to WSMV, Tennessee House Republicans claimed the protest that led to Jones and Pearson’s expulsion was in violation of the House rules, and Jones’s lawsuit pushes back on these claims, “When these three lawmakers (Jones, Pearson and Johnson) took to the well of the House in an attempt to be heard on this issue, Speaker Sexton shut down the House proceedings entirely, forced the removal of Representative Jones and his two colleagues from the Legislature, and then led an illegal and unconstitutional effort to expel them—all in an effort to quash legitimate and open discussion about the use of weapons of war in murdering six Nashville citizens.”
Following the Special Session in August, Jones addressed the media, telling reporters from WPLN, “I mean I have no doubt. I was the only member who was silenced yesterday,” Jones stated.
“I was the only member ruled out of order and had my microphone cut off when I was questioning about where in the rules can we hold the speaker accountable for abusing the rules.”